It’s November, but in Nevada it’s still hot. Hot enough that most teenage boys would rather be inside than sweating out a Saturday morning service project.
Why are these young men braving the burning desert sun? It’s not for the free can of soda pop. What began as a project to fill a Duty to God requirement, became a lesson in the joy of service.
The expanded requirements for the new Duty to God Award have created more opportunities to help more people through an increased number of quorum activities and individual projects.
For one of their activities, the young men in the Desert Breeze Ward, Las Vegas Nevada Lakes Stake, came to the aid of recent convert, Kyoko Fuller, an 82-year-old widow who speaks mostly Japanese.
The young men cut dried-out fronds from three neglected palm trees behind her house, stripped away the overgrown bark, and hauled off the piles of dead growth.
“How much I pay?” she asked when the young men told her they’d clean up her yard and take care of the palm trees. “Oh no,” she said when they told her it was free. “I pay how much?” They didn’t take any money, but they enjoyed the drinks she offered after they had worked under the desert sun for two hours.
“This was fun,” says Matt Erickson, a teacher. “Kyoko’s great, and it was fun to help her out. The work was kind of hard, but it went fast.”
The young men feel the same way about the Duty to God program in general: hard work, but worth it.
Sure, the new requirements are a challenge. To earn the deacon, teacher, and priest Duty to God certificates, a young man must accomplish eight goals in each of the four personal development categories: spiritual, physical, personal, and social development. That’s 96 goals in all from deacon to priest.
On top of that, there are three other sections with requirements: Priesthood Duties, Family Activities, and Quorum Activities. By the end of the program the Aaronic Priesthood holder will have, among other things:
Kept a journal.
Invited a friend to church.
Learned to keep to a budget.
Prepared for a patriarchal blessing.
Taught at least three quorum lessons.
Prepared a four-generation pedigree chart.
Completed three Duty to God service projects.
Memorized six hymns and the sacrament prayers.
Accompanied a full-time missionary at least twice.
Participated in baptisms for the dead (where possible).
Participated in at least one quorum service project every year.
Read the Book of Mormon twice and For the Strength of Youth three times.
Organized and taught (under his parents’ direction) four family home evening lessons each year.
It can seem almost overwhelming when lumped all together. But spread over six years, what looks impossible really isn’t. Enough goals are provided that the young men may choose goals they can achieve. And in each category, Young Men leaders may modify requirements to meet individual needs, so that all young men—even those with special challenges (see accompanying story, “Fulfilling Their Duties to God”)—not only fulfill their duty to God but earn the award for doing so.
“We want every young man to earn the award because it is a progressive education that will prepare them for what they will have to face as adults,” says Elder F. Melvin Hammond, Young Men general president. “It will help them get to the temple and go on missions.”
“Working on the award is good for me,” says Ken Huffman, a teacher in the Desert Breeze Ward. “It really helps keep me on the right track.” Ken says that setting and reaching his goals has helped his faith to grow and has strengthened his testimony.
“And my mom loves it,” he says. “All parents like to see their kids studying the scriptures.”